A-Z of Higher Education Colleges: This Week: The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow

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Age: 152

History: Its first incarnation was in 1847, as the Glasgow Athenaeum, which gave young men in commerce a chance to get an education. Charles Dickens presided at the opening evening - or the First Soiree, as it was known. The Athenaeum later morphed into the Scottish National Academy of Music. Acquired the royal handle in 1944. The College of Dramatic Art was founded in 1950. Current title dates from 1968.

Address: Central Glasgow.

Ambience: Moved from Victorian buildings to purpose-built premises in 1988. The new building is honey-coloured brick outside, blond wood and exposed brick inside. Located bang in the middle of the city's theatre district, it's close to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Scottish Opera and the Theatre Royal. Claims to be one of the busiest music and theatre venues in Glasgow, with more than 300 performances a year, bringing in 70,000 visitors. A junior academy runs on Saturdays and attracts schoolchildren from all over Scotland. Great shopping in Sauchiehall Street nearby.

Vital statistics: It's small - with only 600 undergraduate and postgraduate students - and the only conservatoire of music and drama in Scotland. One of the four royal schools of music, it has won the power to award its own degrees. Male:female ratio is 40:60.

Added value: Sleek new pounds 5m extension in glass and polished granite houses the Alexander Gibson Opera School, which runs postgraduate opera courses. It has superb acoustics and was shortlisted for the Building of the Year award.

Easy to get into? You need to have three Highers or two A-levels, plus get through a tough audition.

Glittering alumni: Actors Bill Paterson, Hannah Gordon, Ian Richardson, John Hannah, Tom Conti, Phyllis Logan, Daniela Nardini, Gregor Fisher; singers Anthony Michaels Moore, Peter Auty and Margaret Marshall; pianists Yevgeny Morozov and David McGrory; and trumpeter Angela Whelan.

Transport links: Easy by plane, train or car - and the main bus station is nearby.

Who's the boss? Sir Philip Ledger, who was knighted in the recent Birthday Honours - a conductor and accompanist and the longest-serving conservatoire principal in the United Kingdom.

Teaching: Rated excellent for music and highly satisfactory for drama.

Research: Did not enter the 1996 research assessment exercise. But last year it received a big grant to set up a National Centre for Research in the Performing Arts. Has also secured a research development grant from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and has appointed a head of research.

Financial health: In the black.

Nightlife: There's no social life on site. The "Traders" pub is the staff/ student hang-out. Hot pub and club scene in Glasgow. Also good restaurants, and a new Virgin multiplex cinema going up.

Cheap to live in? Student flats run by the academy cost pounds 57-pounds 66 a week; room in privately rented house starts at pounds 50 a week.

Buzzphrase: Viva Carmen! (After the Academy's sell-out production of the opera, which was attended by Scotland's First Minister, Donald Dewar.)

Lucy Hodges

Next week: the College of St Mark and St John